Schooled Reporting on education

Long before the ABCs and 123s

Education | State leaders find common ground in support for early childhood education
by Leigh Jones
Posted 12/05/18, 05:38 pm

Almost nothing about the 2018 midterm elections indicated U.S. politicians find much to agree on. But at the state level, at least one issue came up again and again in stump speeches and TV ads: early childhood education.

According to the National Governors Association (NGA), candidates in 32 of the 39 gubernatorial races claimed early education as a priority. That broad topic includes initiatives from preschool classes to affordable child care and more. But one common, bipartisan understanding undergirds all of it: A child’s educational development does not begin in kindergarten.

“We’re seeing more recognition around the science of learning and development and what leads to lifelong learning outcomes,” said Aaliyah A. Samuel, director of the education division for the NGA.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, only about 1 in 5 parents stays home with their children. While research shows one-on-one interaction with children offers the best environment for their development, 80 percent of parents send their children to some form of child care. And children whose parents can’t afford the best care often end up falling behind before they ever get to school. That achievement gap has prompted policymakers to push for more government involvement.

While politicians recognize the value of early education, especially for disadvantaged children, they don’t agree on how to support or improve it. Democrats, who have focused on this issue for longer, tend to gravitate toward initiatives like universal pre-K or Head Start, according to Katharine Stevens, an early childhood policy analyst with the American Enterprise Institute. Republicans, she said, are focused more on defining and addressing the scientifically proven needs of children at the root-cause level.

In 2015, federal lawmakers established a grant program to help states do just that. The Preschool Development Grants Birth Through Five will dole out $1 billion over four years to increase participation in high-quality early learning programs. Stevens called the grant program a breakthrough because it doesn’t aim to establish a new, federally funded initiative. Instead, it seeks to bolster existing networks of child care options, emphasizing parental choice.

The first step is for each state to evaluate its resources and identify gaps. The second step focuses on filling those gaps. Stevens hopes many of the state proposals will highlight care from birth to 3 years old, the time researchers increasingly say matters most.

“If you’re talking about focusing on the foundations of development, you don’t focus on 4-year-olds because that’s not actually the foundation of development,” she said. “The foundation of development starts prenatally and then certainly in the first three years of life. … So if your focus is improving outcomes, especially for disadvantaged children, and you’re following the science, you’re going to be focused on pregnant mothers and children from birth to 3.”

Samuel with the NGA believes state-level solutions will continue to take precedence over a more universal, federal approach. While each state’s programs will differ in implementation, she expects to see an increase in funding for and access to high-quality early childhood programs.

“In the same way you don’t question funding a child for second grade, you won’t see people questioning funding for early childhood,” she said.

iStock/monkeybusinessimages iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Trouble for course credit recovery programs

Schools have long struggled to provide effective solutions for students who fall behind in their studies. Course credit recovery programs, like summer school or after-school classes, help high school students make up credits after failing classes. But concerns exist that the programs have lower standards, focusing on getting students to graduate at the expense quality learning. A recent study released by the Thomas Fordham Institute reveals worrying trends for in-school credit recovery programs.

Nationwide, a modest average of 8 percent of students participate in active high school credit recovery programs. The report points out that while the average is fairly low, the outliers raise concerns. In nearly 1 out of every 10 programs, 20 percent or more of the students in the school are enrolled.

Another red flag is the fact that large and urban school districts enroll disproportionally more students in credit recovery programs. Even more troubling is the fact that high-minority districts enroll students at a much higher rate than their suburban counterparts.

The report cautioned against overgeneralizing based on the findings: “Like most educational interventions, we can find places that are experiencing genuine success as a result of the intervention, but we can also find places that manifest dismal failure.” —Laura Edghill

Associated Press/Photo by Charles Krupa (file) Associated Press/Photo by Charles Krupa (file) The Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass.

Reactionary rule

Several national fraternities and sororities sued Harvard University this week over a 2016 policy discouraging single-sex social clubs. The rule doesn’t ban the groups outright, but it bars students who join them from leading campus groups, being captains of sports teams, and receiving endorsements for prestigious fellowships such as the Rhodes scholarship.

“These students are being punished simply for joining private, off-campus, lawful organizations,” Laura Doerre, former international president of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, said at a news conference Monday. “They are being punished for being women who simply want to have an association with other women.”

Harvard came up with the policy to try to curb secretive all-male “final clubs,” which were accused of misogyny and sexual assault in a 2016 report. But other fraternities and sororities and even single-sex choirs have suffered as a result, especially all-female groups that have either disbanded or been forced to admit men—an obviously ineffective solution to the original challenge of protecting women from male aggressors. The lawsuit claims Harvard’s policy discriminates against students on the basis of sex. —Lynde Langdon

Going bananas for kindness

In a photo making the rounds on social media, a Virginia Beach, Va., school cafeteria manager hands out more than the usual daily lunch. Early each morning, Stacy Truman writes uplifting messages on several dozen bananas. “You are enough!” said one. Others encourage students to “be a great friend” and “be kind.”

Truman began the practice many years ago for her two daughters to stay connected with them while they were in school. Last month, she decided to try it out on the kids at Kingston Elementary.

“I want them to succeed in life and have an awesome day at school,” Truman told The Washington Post. “Whenever I can put a smile on all of those little faces, I’ve done my job.”

The photo continues making the rounds on social media, so keep an eye out for motivational bananas in a school near you. —L.E.

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Leigh Jones

Leigh is acting managing editor for WORLD Radio. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate who spent six years as a newspaper reporter in Texas before joining WORLD. Leigh also co-wrote Infinite Monster: Courage, Hope, and Resurrection in the Face of One of America's Largest Hurricanes. She resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, Texas.

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  • PaulC
    Posted: Wed, 12/05/2018 10:01 pm

    The early childhood education idea is wrong headed.  1)This is not the government's responsibility.  There is no constitutional support for government running the education system.  2)The Bible calls for wives to be workers at home,(Titus 2:5)  Moms and Dads interacting with their own children and teaching them will be far better than a government program.  The scientists are right in pointing out that education begins before the learning of abcs. Sure this is a big change from the way we are going.  Sure there are times when Moms need to work for pay away from home.  But the exception should never be allowed to be the rule.  3)The Bible also tells us that the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and also of wisdom, (Proverbs 9:10)  4)This is politically incorrect to the max. When was being politically corrrect ever about the truth?  5)As we continue to move further away from the Lord and His truth, our country will continue to slide into oblivion and ultimately the judgment of God.   Anyone else like to weigh in on this?  

  • DS
    Posted: Thu, 12/06/2018 07:19 am

    1) Amen, 2) Amen, 3) Amen, 4) Amen, and 5) I beg to differ. Everyone will be judged by God in the end, not just nations who don't follow his will.

  • JennyBeth
    Posted: Thu, 12/06/2018 11:51 am

    Regarding the need for early childhood centers, Nancy Pearcey outlined well in Total Truth that this started in the Industrial Revolution when work moved away from the home, which led to the incorrect perception that women should ideally just be changing diapers, cooking, and cleaning. But the Proverbs 31 woman is a businesswoman, in the old sense when production was a family affair from home. Wives were vital to the family income, and much of the children's education came as they learned to contribute to the family business(es) as well. That's another matter relating to childhood development, that modern education is greatly lacking in the hands-on respects. I hope that emerging technologies like 3D printing and aquaponics will open up the possibilities to return production to the home. I wish also that more businesses would allow their employees to work about half the time from home when possible, so that parents could be with their children more. Those steps "back" to a traditional societal framework would do a world of good.

  • Idaho ob
    Posted: Fri, 12/07/2018 05:37 pm

    The studies on early childhood education show little or no long term positive effects.  The teacher’s unions love to promote this along with smaller class size and neither is an answer.  By fifth grade you can’t tell who had head start or early education.

  • Rudy49
    Posted: Sat, 12/08/2018 12:05 am

    There are also studies that show many, if not most, children are not developmentally ready for formal education until age 7. My daughter, who teaches kindergarten, will tell you most of the first two years kindergarten and 1st grade (ages 5 and 6) is spent helping children develop the psychological, emotional, and social skills necessary to learn. There are some countries that do not start formal education until age 7 and seem to have better educational outcomes.

    Posted: Sun, 12/09/2018 06:48 pm

    Yes Idaho OB from all I read the benefits of preK Head Start etc are transitory. By the time the children are in 3rd grade any advantages achieved from Head Start have disappeared. Those kids are no better than their peers but this leads me to ask had they not received Head Start would they be BEHIND their peers by 3rd grade?